Many introverts see the world in terms of story and symbol, making them naturally gifted writers.
There’s something so very introverted about the act of writing. Maybe, as John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, pointed out, writing is introverted because it’s done alone. “It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it,” he said.
Although not all introverts are drawn to writing, many of us “quiet ones” are, whether it’s writing a novel, journaling our thoughts, or simply texting a friend instead of calling on the phone. Here’s why many introverts are drawn to writing, and why us “quiet ones” make the best writers, in my opinion.
Why Many Introverts Are Drawn to Writing
Sure, some of the literary greats are extroverts, such as Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Anaïs Nin, and Mark Twain, who are all considered to have been more “outgoing” personalities. However, many writers self-identify as introverts, such as J.K. Rowling and John Green; other famous introverted writers are thought to include Agatha Christie, Charlotte Brontë, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Homer, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, Ayn Rand, and… the list goes on and on.
Yes, technically, anyone can write, but in my opinion, it takes a certain type of person to create whole worlds inside their head, to work in complete isolation for hours/weeks/years on end, and to strive to get every word just right. Plus, there are no staff meetings, no small talk, no group brainstorming sessions, and no social burnout when you’re writing; it’s just you, your notebook (or laptop), and whatever your inner world devises. It doesn’t get more introverted than that.
Another reason many introverts are drawn to writing has to do with our unique way of seeing the world. Lauren Sapala is a writing coach for introverts. “I think many introverts naturally see the world in terms of story and symbol,” she told me via email. “And when we use writing as a tool, we’re able to connect the dots and lay out the patterns we see for others.”
In other words, writing allows introverts to share their unique insights, ideas, and observations with others — something we don’t get to do in a casual conversation about the weather.
Finally, our love of writing may have to do with the way our brains are wired. According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in her book The Introvert Advantage, introverts may rely more on long-term memory than short-term memory, whereas extroverts do the opposite. This can make it harder for introverts to put their thoughts into words — like when someone asks you a question you weren’t expecting — because pulling information from long-term memory is essentially more difficult and takes more time. Extroverts have words on the tip of their tongue because they tend to favor short term (or working) memory. Writing, however, uses different pathways in the brain, according to Laney, and those pathways seem to flow more fluently for us introverts.
Why Introverts Make the Best Writers
So, in my opinion, here are three reasons introverts make the best writers:
1. Good writing is good thinking. And who thinks more than introverts?
Due to our inward nature, we introverts tend to think deeply and reflect often — something we see in the “lost in the clouds” stereotype of introverts.
In fact, one study found that introverts reacted more strongly than extroverts to various forms of sensory stimulation (information taken in by the five senses). They also expended more mental effort to analyze that information more deeply and carefully than the extroverts. On the other hand, extroverts performed better at monitoring the events going on around them and noticing small changes in their environments (there’s a reason we call extroverts “outward” personalities).
Both looking within and looking out can be strengths in different situations, but when it comes to writing, introverts shine. After all, you have to chew on an idea or experience quite a bit before you can extract an insight or create something brand new from it.
2. We’re comfortable with solitude (which is a necessity to write).
As I’ve said, introverts love their alone time, and it takes solitude — not a committee — to write a book. “While extroverts might naturally reach for other people or external activities to relieve boredom,” Sapala told me, “introverts more often than not seek a physical refuge where they can be alone and spend time inside their own heads.”
3. We’re keen observers of people, places, and details, which makes our writing rich.
You can usually tell if someone is an introvert by looking at how they react to a crowd. If they hang back, just watching, or if they let others take the lead and do most of the talking, they’re probably an introvert.
All that listening and observing comes in handy when we write. An overheard conversation can become the basis of a character in our book. The details we notice about a place form the backbone of our story’s setting. An observation raises a question in our minds, causing us to dive deeper in search of an answer.
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How to Write More
Although many introverts love writing, they can also find it extremely difficult to get their ideas out of their heads and on to paper — but there’s a simple solution, Sapala told me. “This might sound basic, but just start,” she said. “Just write something. Anything.”
If you’re like me, you get hung up on trying to make your work perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write a blog post or work on my creative fiction, and I failed to make any forward progress because I kept changing the direction of my story or rewriting sentences until they were just right. I blame my introverted perfectionist within.
To combat perfectionism, Sapala said, remind yourself that what you’re writing at this very moment doesn’t have to be the final product. It doesn’t even have to be shown to anyone else (unless you want to). “If it helps, imagine that you’re going to put your writing in a locked box,” she said.
And given the introvert’s penchant for deep thinking, it’s only natural for us to strategize, plot, and plan. Although figuring out your characters and major plot points in advance can save you from wasting time later on, it can hurt us when it comes to actually sitting down and writing. Sapala calls it “futurizing,” which is when someone leaps ahead and tries to plan too much about what something will or should look like, and inadvertently, it can become a way to procrastinate. (“I’ll only start writing when I figure out all my characters’ backstories.”) When we futurize, we feel like we’re making progress, but we aren’t.
Instead, be open to possible unexpected directions your writing may take — and know that it’s okay if something doesn’t turn out quite the way you envisioned it. For many writers, it’s normal to end up with a final product that doesn’t match their initial idea. This can be a good thing, because it means your ideas are evolving.
“Bring yourself back to the present and start with one sentence, and then another, and then another,” Sapala said. “Just do what you can right now.”
Introvert, do you enjoy writing? Why? Let me know in the comments below.